With the start of a new year approaching, many Americans are setting goals to get better, happier and healthier in 2016. To find out where people want to make improvements in their lives this coming year, GOBankingRates surveyed the most popular New Year’s resolutions for 2016.
According to the survey findings, money goals won’t be as big of a priority for many Americans. Instead, most survey respondents plan to have fun in 2016 and seize the day.
The survey findings include the most popular resolutions overall, as well as insights into resolutions Americans are making by age, gender and even the state in which they live.
Survey Findings: 2016 New Year’s Resolutions
The GOBankingRates survey asked respondents, “What are your 2016 resolutions?” and included six possible New Year’s resolutions along with “none of the above.” Multiple choices were permitted. The possible resolutions choices included:
- Enjoy life to the fullest
- Live a healthier lifestyle
- Lose weight
- Save more, spend less
- Spend more time with family and friends
- Pay down debt
About one-third of the total number of respondents selected “none of the above,” indicating that they either don’t plan to make a resolution for 2016 or their goal wasn’t represented among the offered choices. These analyses on resolutions were conducted on only the remaining portion of responses that selected one or more of the resolutions above.
Most Americans Will Set Just One Resolution
Of those who chose a New Year’s resolution, most people (55.3 percent) are pretty realistic about their New Year’s resolutions and only plan to tackle one goal in 2016. Still, 23.7 percent of respondents are setting two to three resolutions, and 21 percent are aiming for four or more resolutions.
Most Popular 2016 New Year’s Resolutions: ‘Enjoy Life to the Fullest’ and ‘Live a Healthier Lifestyle’
“Enjoy life to the fullest” is the most popular New Year’s resolution. Nearly half (45.7 percent) of survey respondents are planning to set this as one of their goals for 2016.
“Who wouldn’t want to live life to the fullest?” said Cameron Huddleston, GOBankingRates’ Life + Money columnist. “Unfortunately, the small things in life can get in the way of actually enjoying life. Perhaps that’s why so many people are resolving to live life to the fullest — as a reminder to take advantage of the time they have.”
The second most-popular resolution is “live a healthier lifestyle” with two in five (41.1 percent) saying this would be one of their resolutions. “Lose weight” is nearly as popular, chosen by 39.6 percent of survey respondents, and a third (33.2 percent) of respondents want to “spend more time with family and friends” in 2016.
More Than Half of Americans Are Setting a Money Goal
The two least-popular 2016 New Year’s resolutions are those related to finance. “Save more, spend less” is a goal for only 30.1 percent of respondents, while “pay down debt” is a focus for 27.5 percent in 2016.
But despite this, a significant portion of Americans — 57.6 percent — plan to set one or both of these finance-related resolutions, a portion nearly equal to the number of Americans who want to “enjoy life to the fullest” in 2016.
Women Are Setting More Resolutions Than Men for 2016
Women are slightly more likely to pick multiple resolutions than men. While men selected an average of two resolutions each, women plan to set an average of 2.2 of the six resolutions for 2016.
Because of the difference in the number of responses selected, women are more likely than men to be setting each resolution, except for “pay down debt” and “live a healthier lifestyle.” More men said they plan on getting rid of debt in 2016, at 27.6 percent compared with 26.7 percent of women. About an equal number of men and women have a goal of living a healthier lifestyle, at 40.1 percent and 40.2 percent, respectively.
The biggest difference between the genders is for the resolution “enjoy life to the fullest,” which women are 15 percent more likely to select than men (47.6 percent vs. 41.4 percent, respectively). Women are also more focused on losing weight (40.3 percent vs. 36.7 percent of men), save more and spend less (33.7 percent vs. 30.8 percent), and spend more time with loved ones (31.4 percent vs. 27.8 percent).
Millennials Focus on Saving, Generation Xers Focus on Debt
When it comes to making resolutions, millennials’ youthful optimism shines through. Americans ages 18 to 34 are setting significantly more resolutions than any other age group, selecting 2.6 resolutions on average. Members of other age groups said they plan to set around two of the six resolutions each.
Millennials: Young millennials (ages 18 to 24) are the most concerned of any age group with spending more time with loved ones, with this New Year’s resolution accounting for 14.8 percent of total responses from this group. They are also the least likely to resolve to pay down debt in 2016, likely because they have had less time to accrue debts and also feel they have more time to pay them off.
However, millennials overall (ages 18 to 34) are the most concerned with spending less and saving money. This age group will likely have lower incomes than those older than them, as well as less experience managing money, so the need to budget and save is apparent. This also reflects the high priority millennials place on saving and financial responsibility.
Generation X: Among Gen Xers, the younger part of this cohort (ages 35 to 44) is focused more on living healthier in 2016 than any other resolution, while older Gen Xers (45 to 54) are the least concerned with this goal of any age group. Older Gen Xers are also the group most focused on paying down debts in 2016.
Baby Boomers: Members of this age group (ages 55 to 64) are resolving to trim their waists in 2016, with 19.8 percent resolving to lose weight. They are also resolving to “enjoy life to the fullest” next year. But, they are the least concerned with trimming their budgets by saving more and spending less.
Seniors: Last but not least, seniors (ages 65 and up) know the importance of getting the most out of life, with “enjoy life to the fullest” accounting for more than a quarter of total responses from this age group. Although seniors are not that concerned with losing weight compared with some other generations, “live a healthier lifestyle” accounted for more than 21 percent of total responses in this age group. Money goals like saving or paying down debt, however, are less-frequent resolutions among seniors.
2016 New Year’s Resolutions by State
GOBankingRates’ survey also provides insights into the top New Year’s resolutions in each state. At the state level, “enjoy life to the fullest” remains the most popular resolution as the top pick of residents in 30 states, including Washington, D.C. (not shown on the map). In 13 states — D.C. included — “lose weight,” is a top resolution, and “live a healthier lifestyle” is a top resolution in 14 states, including D.C. Two states, Arkansas and Wyoming, selected “Spend more time with family and friends” as a top resolution.
Only four states had financial resolutions as top picks. Residents of Alabama, Arkansas and Wyoming are making “save more, spend less” a top priority in 2016, while Hawaii is the only state that named “pay down debt” as a top resolution.
Why You Should Make a Financial Resolution in 2016
Trying to “enjoy life to the fullest” is a worthy aim for next year. While this is the most popular New Year’s resolution for 2016, it can be hard to achieve this goal if you aren’t addressing major stressors in your life — like money — that can hold you back.
“It’s important to remember that you should still plan for the future while enjoying the present,” Huddleston said. “You don’t have to sacrifice your savings or put your finances at risk by racking up debt just to have fun today.”
“It’s easy to focus on the now — to spend your money (and charge the credit card) on things you think will make you happy,” she continued. “But ask yourself this: How happy will you be if you have to work your entire life because you racked up so much debt and didn’t save for retirement?”
Financial Resolutions Make a Difference
“It’s well known that it’s hard for most people to stick to their New Year’s resolutions,” Huddleston said. You can probably remember a resolution you set on Jan. 1 with the best of intentions, only to forget all about it by the end of February.
But when it comes to improving your financial life, resolutions really do make a difference. “A recent survey by Fidelity Investments found that people who made financial resolutions at the start of 2015 are in better financial shape than those who didn’t make a financial resolution,” Huddleston said. And it’s not just their money that was affected — these people reported feeling more optimistic overall (51 percent) compared with those who didn’t set financial resolutions (38 percent).
“So if there are areas of your personal finances that need attention, you should resolve to make changes or improvements in the new year,” Huddleston said.
How to Accomplish Your 2016 Money Resolutions
Once you know the area of your finances that needs improvement, it’s time to get specific. The goals mentioned above — to “save more, spend less” or “pay down debt” — are good places to start. “Given that the savings rate in America is so low and the consumer debt level is so high, more people should be resolving to save more and pay down debt,” said Huddleston.
But these goals will need to be backed up by a plan you can put into action. “To ensure success, write down your goals with a plan for achieving them, then monitor your progress throughout the year,” Huddleston said. “In other words, hold yourself accountable.”
Whatever your goal, figure out what that will look like each month and even each week. If you want to get out of debt in 2016, set a goal for how much extra you want to pay monthly and on which balances. For savings goals, decide how much you need to save, and break that down by week or month. If you don’t have enough room in your budget to meet debt or savings goals, look at your expenses to see where you can scale back.
When the new year starts, put your plan in action and keep a long-term view. “Every time you want to buy something,” focus instead on the financial peace and security you’re working to build, Huddleston suggested. “This will help you avoid breaking a resolution to pay down debt or save more.”
Methodology: This survey was conducted as a Google Consumer Survey, conducted from Nov. 24-27, 2015, and collected responses from 5,004 people. The findings are representative of the U.S. online population with a margin of error of 1.9 percent. The survey posed the question, “What are your 2016 resolutions? (select all that apply)” with the option to select “None of the above,” or to select any or all of the following six resolutions, displayed in random order: (1) enjoy life to the fullest, (2) live a healthier lifestyle, (3) lose weight, (4) save more, spend less, (5) spend more time with family and friends and (6) pay down debt. For the analysis of resolutions, respondents who selected “none of the above” (35.8 percent) were excluded. Insights based on age, gender and geography were found using only respondents for which the relevant metadata were available.